Billions Of Cicadas To Reappear
Cicadas are striking-looking large insects, with clear wings and bulging red eyes, and can grow up to 2 inches in length, and are expected to emerge onto the Earth’s surface very soon after 17 years.
Cicadas live extremely simple lives in the ground, sucking the sugar from tree roots to survive and living a pretty much invisible existence. This is except for during mating season when they come to the surface, mate, have their offspring, and die a few weeks later, starting the entire cycle again. The orphan cicadas nymphs (the name for cicadas before they have fully matured) then burrow back underground for their 17-year lifespan before doing the same repeating the mating cycle again.
This particular brood of cicadas is known as Brood X (the Roman numeral for 10) and is one of the largest broods of cicadas on record.
When should we expect to see these cicadas?
According to Matt Kasson, a Biologist of West Virginia University, they are waiting for the perfect temperature. Speaking with The New York Times he said, “They are ready but waiting for the soil to be warm enough. The ideal soil temperature for cicadas is about 64 degrees. For the Mid-Atlantic region, that usually comes by about the third week of May, but it could be sooner. Usually, you have stragglers on either side.”
They will emerge for about four to six weeks, performing a loud buzzing or droning sound mating call to attract the opposite sex and create their progeny. Female cicadas burrow holes into thin branches to lay their 400-600 eggs from which the cicada nymphs will hatch. The baby nymphs will then fall from the tree and burrow into the ground – disappearing from sight for the remainder of their lives.
A biology professor at Muhlenberg College Marten Edwards spoke with The Indy Star and explained that cicadas do not hard people, crops, or pets, but can be a bit of a nuisance. They do not have stingers, they don’t bite, and they are not violent, they are simply looking to complete their cycle.
“It’s a few weeks of noise to celebrate the fact that the Earth has been kept in good condition for the last 17 years,” Edwards explained. “We’re really witnessing a wonderful thing here.”
Where can we expect to see them?
Primarily Brood X is anticipated in Maryland, southern Indiana, northern Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. There are also eleven other states that can expect cicadas to make an appearance, however, these areas will be less concentrated.
When they emerge they will appear white and wingless, they then shed their shells, and re-harden with large clear wings, ready for mating season. The males will create a loud buzzing or droning sound as their call, and the females will respond with clicking noises. This racket will be heard all around for several weeks until the season has passed and the adults have died off.
Because cicadas feed on tree routes whilst they are underground, they will predominantly emerge in areas with old trees and deep roots. They live around 18 inches below the ground, and so wide-open spaces are not likely to see very many of them. However, if you live near an old forest, you may be able to spot this incredible phenomenon, or even hear it.
Facts About Cicadas:
- They are actually among the loudest insects in the world because they can produce a droning noise, by vibrating two abdominal membranes together. This sound can reach a volume of 120 dB.
- They are an ancient insect which can be traced all the way back to when Dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
- Brood X cicadas live underground for 17 years at a time, emerging to go through their mating season.
- They have been likened to the Biblical locust swarms because of the sheer number of cicada that emerges.
- There are more than 3,000 species of cicada in the wild.
- Cicadas defend themselves through sheer force of numbers. They overwhelm their predator’s capacity for consumption, making them offputting.
- Cicadas can reach a dense concentration of up to 1.5million cicadas per acre.
- Eating cicadas once they have emerged from their shells was a common practice among original Native American inhabitants in the Indiana region.
Whilst you’re here, why not check out some of our other science and nature related articles.